Best Kids' Movies Based on Books for Young Children

Read, Watch, Learn

Movies based on books can be effective tools to get kids excited about reading and learning. They are great for movie parties, book club meetings and themed summer camps. You can also use movies, in conjunction with books, to help your child develop critical thinking skills. Here is a list of movies that are excellent adaptations of renowned books for preschoolers and early elementary aged kids.

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The Gruffalo

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In the simple yet captivating adaptation of the book The Gruffalo, a mother squirrel (voice of Helena Bonham Carter) tells a story to her little ones. "A mouse took a stroll through the deep, dark wood...," she begins somewhat ominously. The little squirrels are rapt, as viewing children will be. The busy forest background provides an opportunity for parents to point out fun facts about nature, and the slight differences from the book make for great compare/contrast discussions. The sequel, The Gruffalo's Child, is also available as a book and on DVD.

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Dr. Seuss' The Lorax

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Colorful and whimsical animation, vibrant musical numbers and a charismatic voice cast make Dr. Seuss' The Lorax a winner for kids and families. The animation can best be described as eye-candy for kids, and the eye-popping world really comes to life as Bar-ba-loots frolic in the Truffula Trees, Swomee-swans fly overhead, and Humming-fish melodiously prance around on land and dive in and out of the water. The movie follows The Lorax book closely and delivers a strong environmental message, providing an opportunity for a great family discussion on messages in movies.

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Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who! (2008)

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Based on the popular children's book by Dr. Seuss, Horton Hears a Who! tells the thoughtful story of Horton, an elephant who is "faithful one hundred percent." Horton's story has delighted children for over 50 years, and now the loyal elephant stars in his own beautifully animated movie. Horton Hears a Who is a movie that the whole family can enjoy together, and the Horton Hears a Who story book can be read in one sitting.

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The Many Adverntures of Winnie the Pooh

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The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh features the following three adventures originally released in 1977 which comprised the first animated feature to be based on the timeless stories by A.A. Milne (look for the stories in The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh):

  • "Honey Tree": This tale introduces Winnie the Pooh and his characteristic "rumbly tummy." Pooh makes a precarious attempt to procure some honey from a nearby bee nest and later gets stuck in Rabbit's doorway.
  • "The Blustery Day": On a blustery day in the Hundred Acre Wood, piglet, being so tiny, is about to get blown away by the wind.
  • "Winnie the Pooh with Tigger Too!": Rabbit finds Tigger's incessant bouncing highly annoying, but he learns to appreciate Tigger for who he is.

The newer 2011 Disney movie is also based on Milne's original stories and is a little more updated and slightly faster paced.

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Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009)

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Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, is based on the classic children's book written by Judi Barrett and illustrated by Ron Barrett. The 32-page book is aimed at kids about ages 4-8. One of the most poignant elements of the story is that it illustrates how a little event in daily life can spark an imaginative story. But while the book Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs tells the story of a town where food rains down from the sky, the movie fills in the details as to what was going on in the little town, and why food started to come from the sky in the first place.

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Meet the Robinson's

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William Joyce wrote the zany book, A Day with Wilbur Robinson, that inspired the movie Meet the Robinsons. The book is celebrated for its funny pictures, which turn the expected upside down with clever twists that both kids and adults can enjoy. The book is about 40 pages, and is recommended for kids ages 4-8 years old.

The animated movie is fun and interesting for kids, but parents should know that the movie does deal with the fact that main character Lewis is an orphan (who wants nothing more than to meet his mother), and there is some violence in the movie that might be scary for very young children.

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Curious George (2006)

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While the Curious George movie does not follow any particular Curious George story exactly, the film features the curious little monkey and the Man in the Yellow Hat who cares for him. The film explains how the two pals met and came to live together, and kids will get a kick out of watching their monkey friend finding trouble wherever he goes. After meeting George, kids will be very excited to read about him and his many adventures.

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Clifford's Really Big Movie

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Clifford is a big red dog who has gotten a lot of attention from preschoolers and young kids for a very long time. As the subject of many well-loved books and a long-running PBS cartoon series, it is only fitting that Clifford should star in his own movie as well. Clifford's Really Big Movie hit the big screen in 2004.

The movie is targeted at very young kids, but a few parents have found that a plot element regarding Clifford being kidnapped was too scary for their little ones. If your little one might be frightened or unsettled by this, there are numerous DVDs containing episodes of the TV series that kids will certainly enjoy as well.

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The Little Engine That Could

The children's classic book, "The Little Engine That Could," written by Watty Piper and illustrated by Loren Long. Penguin Random House

"I think I can, I think I can..." The timeless story of The Little Engine That Could comes to life in brilliant CG color in this animated version from Universal Studios. The little blue engine takes a boy from the real world and some fun loving toys over the mountain on a perilous journey to help her new friends. They meet many challenges, but The Little Engine always remembers the sound advice she got from a wise old friend, "If you think you can, you can. If you think you can't, you can't. Either way, you're right."

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Animated Dr. Seuss Stories

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Several of the most classic Dr. Suess stories have been masterfully animated for children and are available on DVD. These colorful cartoons bring the stories to animated life. They are true to the original stories and are great fun for children. The DVD titled Seuss Celebration, includes many great stories like: "The Cat in the Hat," The Lorax," "Green Eggs and Ham," and "Sneetches." It does NOT contain "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," but that is another great one and is also available on DVD in both the animated (for kids) version and a live action family movie (not targeted specifically to young children).

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Scholastic DVDs

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Scholastic DVDs present animated adaptations of many of the most beloved children's picture books and stories. In most cases, DVDs are narrated using the exact words from the stories themselves, and the animation in the DVDs matches that of the books. Kids love watching their favorite books come to life on TV, and they hear excellent examples of reading as the narrators tell each story. Many Scholastic DVDs also incorporate a read along function which allows kids to read along with subtitles at the bottom of the screen.